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Yarmuth Opening Statement at Hearing on FY19 Trump Budget

Feb 14, 2018


Washington, D.C. – Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, gave the following opening statement at today’s hearing with OMB Director Mick Mulvaney on the President’s FY19 budget. Remarks as prepared are below:

Thank you Mr. Chairman, and welcome Director Mulvaney.  I appreciate you coming here to testify on the President’s budget and to answer our questions.

Last year, when we received the President’s budget for 2018, I described it as a betrayal, with a long list of broken promises. Which it was.  This year I’m going to start out with the positive. In this budget, the Trump Administration has done something extraordinary. They have finally realized that you can’t balance the federal budget by cutting taxes. That you can’t balance the federal budget by cutting spending. And that you can’t balance the federal budget through gimmicks – god knows you gave that your best effort. So with this new acknowledgement or enlightenment, which ever it is, maybe there is hope that we can work together in a bipartisan way to advance a responsible budget that truly addresses the needs and priorities of the American people.  But it can’t start with the values reflected in the rest of the Trump budget.

Let’s be clear. This is an irresponsibly extreme budget that reflects a disdain for working families, as well as a disheartening lack of vision for a stronger society.  This budget calls for massive cuts to health care, anti-poverty programs, and investments in economic growth—all to blunt the deficit-exploding impact of the President’s tax cuts.

It takes aim at the Bipartisan Budget Agreement (BBA) the President signed into law just last week, cutting nondefense funding in 2019 by at least $57 billion below the level called for in the two-year agreement. This is funding that would go to veterans’ programs, law enforcement, diplomatic operations, education, research, and other investments to boost jobs, revitalize communities, and improve economic security.

Beyond 2019, the budget sets nondefense funding on a steep and steady downward trajectory so that by 2028 NDD funding would be cut by 33 percent below the BBA level for this year (and that is without accounting for inflation).  That is such a dangerously low level of funding it would leave the government unable to carry out its basic functions.

The budget then goes directly after mandatory spending, brutally targeting programs that help Americans living paycheck to paycheck.  It cuts $263 billion from mandatory programs that safeguard basic living standards, including a $214 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that protects 44 million — including 20 million children—from going hungry each night. It takes $72 billion from disability programs, including Social Security, and more than $0.5 trillion from Medicare — a full betrayal of the promises the President made to the American people not to touch either program.

And despite the public’s outright rejection last summer, the President’s budget continues the Republican obsession with dismantling and destabilizing health care for millions of Americans.  It makes another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with an already rejected plan that will leave millions more people without meaningful health coverage and weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions.  As part of this continuing attack, the budget cuts $1.4 trillion from Medicaid, jeopardizing care for seniors in nursing homes, children with disabilities, and low-income families.

Even where this budget claims to increase investments, it fails. This proposal pretends to make infrastructure a priority with $200 billion in federal funding, a figure that falls embarrassingly short of our nation’s infrastructure needs. But then the budget simultaneously cuts $122 billion in highway programs while severely cutting or eliminating other infrastructure investments our cities and states need. 

But  even after all of these reckless cuts, the budget still can’t hide the true devastation of the tax cuts, so it once again relies on unrealistic economic assumptions to make its deficit projections look less ominous. It counts $800 billion in deficit reduction from some magical policy growth effects; even though independent economists predict these high growth rates are not sustainable given trends in our labor supply.

So while this budget includes some honesty by acknowledging that their tax cuts didn’t pay for themselves, it turns to gimmicks to hide the full consequences of these cuts, while decimating critical investments the American people need.

The federal budget is about choices - choices that have major impacts on the American people. Not a single millionaire would have gone hungry without the new tax cuts my Republican colleagues just gave them, but many American families will not be able to put food on the table under this budget. Others won’t be able to afford health care or housing or to heat their homes in the winter. Those are choices my Republican colleagues are making – and they are reprehensible.

Our task here is to build a stronger society – and to do that we need investments in education, health care, job training, innovation, infrastructure, and more. If you believe America is better off by gutting these investments you fundamentally misunderstand the true source of our nations’ strength.